Friday, March 18, 2011

Artist Night - Google Doodle

I went to Google IO last year and had a really good time there. I learned lots of interesting things. That's actually where I came up with the name for this blog. I was excited to go again this year but I wasn't able to sign up. For some reason, Google outsourced their registration process and the site couldn't handle the load they experienced when registration went live. The whole conference sold out in 59 minutes, which is pretty impressive, but I kept getting error pages and wasn't able to complete the registration.

Luckily, google opened up a sort of developers challenge called Last Call for Google I/O where one of the prizes is a registration to attend the event. I thought I'd give it a try and at least have fun even if I don't win.

Unfortunately, I didn't pass round 1 of the Android challenge but I did pass round 1 of the Chrome challenge. Round 2 presented an interesting artistic opportunity. We were asked to create a Chrome themed Google Doodle using some Chrome/HTML5 coolness. We only had one night to complete the challenge. Luckily, this coincided perfectly with my artist night plans.

I came up with a couple of designs. Most of them were really cool in my head but didn't work so well in the browser. I started implementing one, but after a few hours of developing it, I found that I couldn't show all the particles I was trying to display in the canvas and have it perform how I wanted it to. So I finally came up with a design where the Google logo transforms into a Chrome logo and back into the Google logo. You can see the final design below (you need to have a decent HTML5 browser and support for iFrames, if you don't see anything try this direct link.)

Mouse over it to see the transition.

It's not perfect, but it's not bad. If I had the time, I would switch it so that it starts as the Chrome logo and then transforms into Google instead of how it is now. I would also have added some effects where the squiggles would react and avoid your mouse pointer as they transition between the logos. It can also use up quite a bit of your processor, But I was up until 5:50am creating this version and my brain was tired. The deadline was also approaching, so this had to be the final version. I still like it.

Whether it wins or not, it was really fun to create. I also learned a lot about Chrome, so that's a happy thing. Interestingly, I've complained about Chrome before, but I've started to use it as my main browser. There are some things that are really nice about it. In addition to the cool html5 support and combined url/search bar, it syncs all my preferences and bookmarks between computers. I like that. I just wish they would fix the URL substring search.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Scientific Linux FTW!

Many people know that I'm an avid Linux user and supporter. I think pretty much everything about it is great. As a developer, I find it to be the most productive OS for me. I've tried many of the distributions out there and I really like some, but I've come to the realization that I'm not really happy with any of the current distributions. The interesting thing for me is how distributions start off good and then screw things up so badly. I think that deserves its own post later.

This has really become an issue lately because I decided I needed to set up a backup server at my home. For reasons I won't get in to, I've started using my MacBook as my main computer and realized how much trouble I would be in if it got stolen. I decided I wanted a backup server so I would at least have all my files if the laptop were misplaced. (I also use online backup, but don't want to think about how long it would take to pull everything back down from the internet.)

The problem is that I've set up servers at home with my regular distributions (Ubuntu, Mandriva, Fedora...) and I get tired of reinstalling them. These desktop distributions are only supported for around 18 months, but I've had servers running for much longer than that. I don't want to keep upgrading them. Some distributions also offer a server version, such as Ubuntu Server, but I wanted something I could imagine using at work. I wanted something more enterprise worthy that I could practice with.

My choice was narrowed down to Debian, or a Redhat rebuild. I like Debian, but Redhat seems to be more widely used and more in demand in the enterprise. I decided I would go with a rebuild. I've used CentOS quite a lot and actually run it on our servers at work. However, I've been a little disappointed with how slow they've been to release lately. It's been months since Redhat has released version 6.0 and 5.6, but CentOS hasn't caught up. In the meantime, they're getting further and further behind on updates. I've also spent time on their freenode IRC channel and the people there are actually pretty rude. So I thought I'd give something else a try.

I was surprised when I saw Scientific Linux beat CentOS to releasing a rebuild of Redhat 6.0. I'd never heard of them before, but they are a Redhat rebuild and can use all the same repositories. Not only that, but they've been beating CentOS as far as security patches and updates go for some time. I installed it and set it up to run backups and everything has been great. It definitely is a server distribution, not one that I'd recommend for a desktop, but this is exactly what I want for this machine.